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Remarkable Living

This Singaporean vinyl collector has over 8,000 records – here’s how he shares his passion with family and friends

Music is how Singaporean vinyl enthusiast CK Teo bonds with his loved ones – the old-school way.

This Singaporean vinyl collector has over 8,000 records – here’s how he shares his passion with family and friends

CK Teo has amassed a collection of over 8,000 vinyl records over the past decade. (Photo: Threesixzero Productions)

For audiophiles, there is little else that can compare with the rich sound quality of vinyl discs when it comes to enjoying music recordings.

Even though there are now newer forms of digital music, there is still a demand for analogue sounds.

“I don’t think vinyl is dead – it has never been. There are still people who love the magic behind the analogue sound,” said entrepreneur CK Teo, who has amassed a collection of over 8,000 vinyl records over the past decade.

“I feel vinyls give a wider dynamic range typically. The warm sound that the vinyl creates is something that is very special. You can get more punch.”

His lifelong passion for music began at a young age when he first began listening to music on his father’s cassette tapes as a child.

“I don’t think vinyl is dead – it has never been," said CK Teo. (Photo: Threesixzero Productions)

“I still remember that magical moment when I first explored my dad’s mini compo and his cassette tapes. The first time I played an 80s compilation cassette tape, I was blown away by the melodies and the catchy tunes,” recalled Teo.

Since then, he has developed a strong interest in music and has spent a lifetime exploring the world of sound. Even when he was a teenager making mixtapes on a cassette player, he had already begun to harbour a dream of building a vinyl record collection.

“A little dream I had when I was younger was having a record room of my own with a ladder that I can climb up to access my records. At that time, I did not have enough money to buy records but I knew that one day, I would want to go into vinyl records,” he said.

Over three decades later, Teo finally achieved this childhood dream when he custom-designed a record room in his home complete with temperature control to keep the vinyls in good condition and floor to ceiling retractable shelves to house his records.

His library comprises records ranging from the more common 12-inch vinyls to the rarer 3-inch versions.

Inside Teo's record room. (Photo: Threesixzero Productions)

From his initial audio starting point of 80s music, he has expanded his listening horizon to include the genres of jazz, metal, world music and local pop. He credits the late BBC radio DJ John Peel, a champion of new music, for exposing him to interesting genres of music.

“The amazing thing about John Peel is that he did not just play mainstream music, he really got listeners to explore obscure music too,” said Teo.

The DJ hosted a show called “The Peel Sessions”, where artistes or bands were invited to the BBC studio to do a live recording of their music. Many of the sessions were released as vinyls.

“When you listen to The Peel Sessions, the sound is not so polished. It is somewhere between a raw live version and the final studio version,” he said. “I wanted to own all of them.”

To date, he has about 60 of the some 100 vinyls of The Peel Sessions released by Strange Fruit Records.

Teo owns 60 of the some 100 vinyls of The Peel Sessions. (Photo: Threesixzero Productions)

Yet, despite owning a wide range of music, he still considers his most precious vinyls the ones that are closely tied to memories of his youth. “I do not just look for vinyls with music or artwork that I love but also for those that evoke a strong sentimental reaction,” he said. “When I buy a record, sometimes the music itself brings back a lot of memories from important parts of my life. That is why I would call them my babies.”

Pulling out a Casey Kasem record set he said: “This record is really rare as it is the set that was sent to radio stations around the world for the broadcast of his American Top 40 Countdown. Every time I put his record on, it reminds me of my childhood days of listening to Rediffusion in my mom's kitchen.”

His love for vinyl collecting has sent him and his son around the world where they will travel to obscure cafes and record stores to uncover hidden gems. His most expensive find so far is a S$1,200 record by legendary guitarist Carlos Santana.

Teo with a Casey Kasem record set he owns. (Photo: Threesixzero Productions)

“This is literally crate digging where you go and dig up albums from a crate without knowing what you might get. Then you might suddenly say, ‘Ooh this is what I have been looking for, for years’,” he said.

Teo’s teenage son Ming Yang is now eager to introduce his father to even more genres of music.

“I am trying to (expand) my father's musical tastes to even wider boundaries. I got him to buy the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto vinyl and play at home and he really enjoys it so this is a step in the right direction,” he said.

Beyond learning to appreciate different styles of music, Teo firmly believes listening to music is a communal experience and generously opens his home to like-minded friends.

“Sometimes we do shoot-outs with my friends, where we basically try to compare the different versions of the vinyl records,” he said.

“Like people who collect wines where they do blind tests and see which bottle of wine is better, we do that as well. It is a great joy and sometimes my friends even take notes like, ‘This one has a punchier base’, ‘This sounds brighter’, or ‘The vocals are more upfront’,” said Teo with a laugh.

07:31 Min

Entrepreneur CK Teo’s love of music began with his father’s cassette tapes. After falling in love with vinyl, he’s amassed a collection of over 8,000 records and now bonds with his family and friends over these.

Most of all, he treasures how music is a shared passion in his close knit family that they can enjoy together. Every night, they pick different albums to listen to and appreciate. “That kind of bonding with my son while listening to a record is like attending a concert together. You do not skip the track, you listen right from the start to the end,” he said.

“Vinyl collecting is like a family culture for me. I am blessed that my son loves music as well and it is through music and collecting of vinyls that we bond.”

Source: CNA/mm